The Worst Decision I Ever Made

"Investors seem willing to pay above market rates to buy into the
story of New Zealand craft beer." 
-Rob Simic, ANZ Commercial and Agricultural Regional Manager, 
Beervana Media Briefing Session, 2014.
"No-one will ever get a dollar back, so i [sic] really hope we 
don't hear them moaning about it down the track. It's a worse 
investment than a finance company debenture!" 
- C N, Comment on an NBR Article

Investing in Yeastie Boys is without a doubt one of the worst decisions I’ve ever made.

OK now to qualify that statement. No doubt if you’re even remotely connected to the New Zealand beer scene you’ve heard the news: Yeastie Boys raised half a million dollars in 26 minutes via crowd funding. Let’s all take a moment to appreciate that feat.

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Done? Right, now lets talk about how disastrously, ruinously mad it is.

The occasion has special significance for me for two reasons: first of all, the launch party was held at Golding’s, and I was working it. I’ve bartended many monumental occasions, including the launch of ParrotDog and Garage Project, but this one may just take the cake.

The other reason it’s significant to me is that I’m one of the the 219 people that chipped in money. Yes, I foolishly ponied up my hard earned cash for a tiny slice of the Yeastie Boys pie.

It was not my intention after reading the share proposal, to invest in the company. Because lets face it, the below the line nay-sayers commenters on the National Business Review articles are correct. Economically, Yeastie Boys is a terrible investment. It’s not that the company is going to go down in flames. To the contrary I have very good reason to believe that it will soar, if not like an eagle, then at least like a fairly ambitious pigeon. No.

But the cold hard facts remain: Half a million only buys 12.5% of the company, which places a value on Yeastie Boys at ~4M, or in other words, somewhere between high and ludicrous. Considering this, and the relatively low-profit nature of brewing at any scale, no one will ever see a good (if any) return on their investment. It’s truly a terrible decision to invest in the Yeastie dream.

"How dumb are some New Zealanders?" 
- Reece of the Duchy, Comment on the same NBR Article

But here’s the thing – we, as in everyone who invested in Yeastie Boys, already knew that. So why the hell did I willingly, gleefully even, chuck my cash into a flaming black hole? Well, first of all, because I could.

I invested a cheeky $500. I could frankly take that much cash out to the BBQ right now and set it on fire (or burn it in one hundred other more creative and figurative ways). Whilst this would be a very foolish decision, at the end of the day, I could do it and still make rent.

And I suspect this goes for everyone else who also threw money in. The average investment was ~$2500. There will be many low level investors like myself, but also a few that invested much, much more money than that. But I also know for a fact that no one invested at a level which means they’ll have to foreclose on the family home if Yeastie Boys doesn’t immediately (or ever) start paying out big dividends.

Frankly, the only one who’s going to get seriously burned if this whole thing doesn’t work is Stu. And he knows that.

The other reason I invested in this thing comes back to something I wrote a few months back:

"I’d invest in a brewery because I believe in drinking good beer, 
and I want to ensure I can get a good pint for years to come. 
Expecting a return on buying into a ‘Craft’ brewery is to me like 
expecting a return on buying a pint at the pub. Passion and 
enjoyment are why we get into this industry, not striking it rich."
- Dylan Jauslin, Beervana is Decadent and Depraved Part #2

So here was the chance. Money where mouth is. And it’s been two weeks since then and in the cold light of day, I stand by that sentiment. I want more Gunnamatta. I want more Pot Kettle Black, and yes, I even want more Rex Attitude. I do not for a moment regret making the worst financial decision of my life. In fact I’d do it again, in an instant.

Fuck'n. Classy. Bastards. Credit: The Brewers Guild of New Zealand.

Stu and I at the BrewNZ Awards, 2013.
Credit: The Brewers Guild of New Zealand

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Having said that, there is one thing I’m nervous of: other breweries.

I can feel them, right now, waiting in the wings. Those who have seen what Stu and Sam have done and are thinking of going and getting their own share of that sweet, sweet crowd-sourced money.

I know that people are thinking about it and I can tell them now – it won’t work out the same. It might seem like Yeastie Boys pulled this off in 30 minutes, but they have been building up to this for 6 years, and Stu has personally been working towards it in one sense or another for more like 10 years (ask him one day about the history of Liberty Brewing).

So think long and hard before you go out there and try to recreate what Yeastie Boys (or even Renaissance) have done. There’s no guarantee it’ll turn out how you want it to.

OK, lets end this on a positive note.

I have officially sliced myself a “piece of the Yeastie Boys pie,” as Anna Guenther of PledgeMe puts it. But frankly, I don’t feel like I have. I feel more like I’ve contributed a little dough (pun intended) to the amorphous mass, which will eventually be rolled out to make the crust of a really special pie.

And in this regard, I feel like I’ve been supporting Yeastie Boys from day 366. For that was the second ever launch of Pot Kettle Black, and the first time I ever had one of their beers. In a very simple way I feel like I’ve been supporting Yeastie Boys for many years the same way those who didn’t invest (or just weren’t quick enough) can support them. By going out and enjoying a Yeastie Boys beer!

Cheers, or as Stu says:
Sláinte Mhaith!

Credit: The Brewers Guild of New Zealand

Credit: The Brewers Guild of New Zealand

My Secret Alter-Ego

Eagle eyed readers may have noticed a slight change in the blolg’s appearance a while back. Instead of luscious, yet slightly generic shots of beer bottles and taps, my site now has a quicky graphic of a megaphone, constructed from the silhouette of a bottleneck. It’s been christened ‘The Megafoam’ (by Phil) and damn, now I wish I’d thought of that for the blog’s name…

Anywho, I’m sure you’re all wondering how I could afford to hire a professional designer for what is essentially a hobby-blog. The answer is: I didn’t; I designed it myself. Ok, so it doesn’t look that professional. Humour me. I got bored whilst having a staffie, and started playing with some graphic design software on my work laptop. It came out ok, but I have plans to tinker with it in the future.

But to get back on topic, I do have a second secret career that few know about: graphic designing tap badges for the beers on tap at Golding’s.

Alright I’m being slightly obtuse here. What I mean is, I print out all the tap badges that go in the light boxes in Golding’s tap-banks. I could legitimately call this a second career though, because I probably do more actual design work that is actually used and seen by customers than most graphic design Interns in major companies could ever dream of.

You see we have rectangular tap badges at Golding’s and frequently small New Zealand breweries don’t have artwork that fits these. Garage Project are the notable exception to this. Which is why their tap badges frequently look rather sexy:

Noice.

Click to enlarge.

In other cases, some they have circular tap badges which look a little small and silly in the light box. High res versions of these can be scaled up sometimes to a good result. Frequently you can also get away with using a digitised bottle label. Sometime the brewery has no artwork In rare cases, the brewery’s branding is so hideous that Sean won’t allow it in the bar.

Whatever the reason, I frequently have to knock up tap badges for a range of beers and breweries. So I thought I’d share a few of my favourites.

The ParrotDog Pixel Series

This badge series began with searching ‘Dead Canary’ and amongst the more morbid images was a pixel-art canary, which I fell in love with. And boom, a series was born!

PDog Taps

Since I started these, ParrotDog has begun creating more poster art for their beers, which is great. It means I will probably phase this series out eventually. They remain however, some of my favourites, because these particular badges take a basic idea and adapt it to suit the beers across the entire brewery. Sometimes though, you have a concept that suits a specific beer, which leads to great one-off badges. It just so happens that two of my favourite creations are from the same brewery…

Funk Estate Oh Kamiyo & So’Fisticuffs

Funk Badges

Click make big.

The concept behind the Oh Kamiyo badge was to capture the feel of a bootlegged VHS box, complete with mistranslation in the Japanese characters (that was *totally* intentional…). Going to say I nailed that one. The So’Fisticuffs on the other hand, I was aiming for a vintage boxing poster. Whilst I captured the feel adequately, I would have liked to included more bombastic flavour text, but the limit of the medium frequently means simpler is better.

None of these though are my favourite tap badge I’ve ever created. Oh no. That honour goes to this little fellow. My masterpiece…

Yeastie Boys/Panhead/Firestone Walker Engelbert Pumpernickel

IMG_20140714_180828

Click size huge.

Here we see (the wrong) Engelbert Humperdinck with a loaf of pumpernickel for a head. I love this tap badge. From a design point of view, it’s not perfect by any means, but god-damn, it captures something about the beer and the people who made it. It was also immensely fun to Shop bread over the face of a historical figure…

I all seriousness, making tap badges is one of my favourite aspects of my job, but it really shouldn’t be. New Zealand’s Small breweries really need to brush up on brand promotion customer service (because that’s what this falls under ultimately) from a brand point of view.

It so happens, that I have the skills and technology to play with basic graphic design, but a lot of other bar managers don’t. As a result you frequently see poorly made, often handwritten (and sometimes barely legible) tap badges. This really doesn’t do anyone any favours; bars, breweries and certainly not customers.

This topic deserves a more focused and detailed post, which hopefully I will get around to (one day…). Suffice to say that two of my friends who are starting breweries in the next few months have consulted with me on the topic and I’ve told them the following:

  • Premade tap badges are best.
  • Three versions is ideal: circular, rectangular and square (in that order).
  • Printable A4 .pdf files (that don’t require scaling) are great for the average customer that doesn’t have access to design software.
  • Downloadable brewery logo files are my favorite (particularly .png files with transparent backgrounds).

Until everyone gets this right though, at least I get to play with Photoshop and CorelDraw and get paid for it.

A Song and Dance About it.

Two weeks ago marked the 5th birthday of New Zealand’s most esteemed contract brewing company Yeastie Boys. They marked the event in their typically atypical style by publishing a fantastic little zine. Now I’d link you to said zine, but in the wonderfully neo-retro style we’ve come to expect from Yeastie Boys, it seems to be a print only affaire (with the exception of Jed Soane’s contribution, which can be found here).

I’m was feeling pretty inspired by both the zine and by Yeastie Boys beer in general so I was going to write my own tribute to the Yeastie Boys Stu and Sam. Unfortunately I realised halfway through that I was being so boring my normal-coloured pants were on the other side of the room. That’s right, I literally bored my own trousers off.

So instead I thought I’d sum up my relationship with Yeastie Boys with a couple of photos. here’s the first one:

Credit: Denise Garland
Credit: Denise Garland

This was taken in 2009 at at the second annual release of Pot kettle Black. We called it a Black IPA back then. No one does that anymore. That was the same night Steve Baker’s NHC winning beer was launched at Malthouse. It was called Bring Your Daughter to the Porter.

I was a student and I only had enough money for one beer and I decided to have a BYDTTP. I drank it and it was gone and I was beerless. Then suddenly a figure in green pants appeared. This is Stu, they said; he brewed PKB. He asked me if I’d tried it. I said no, so he got me one. Later that night Denise took this photo of Steve and Stu in the Men’s bathroom at Malthouse. That was back when they had the Rolling Stones urinals. Why’d they get rid of those?

I woke up the next day with an FB friend request from Stu. That was the first night I had beers with him.

The second photo comes from the most recent time I had beers with Stu: the Brewers Guild Awards Dinner. The bathroom was right next to the photo booth, and on one of my many trips to it (the bathroom that is) I saw Stu getting his photo taken with this haul of Medals.

“Dylan, come here. Bite this.”

Credit: The Brewers Guild of New Zealand

Credit: The Brewers Guild of New Zealand

‘This’ was the Gold Medal Yeastie Boys won for Gunnamatta and contrary to popular opinion, not a pickle.

There’s a shared quality in these photos that for me, sums up why I love Yeastie Boys: because they’re odd and unusual, irreverent, even perhaps a little facetious. But always, always, well executed.

There was four years between these photos. It’s nice to see that some things change, but some things stay the same. Here’s to five years of Yeastie beers.

Zum Wohl!

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Ok, one more photo:

Fuck'n. Classy. Bastards. Credit: The Brewers Guild of New Zealand.

Fuck’n. Classy. Bastards.                                    Credit: The Brewers Guild of New Zealand.

 

My Alcoholic Kitchen: Chickenosaurus Rex

So the other day I had beer-can-chicken for the first time.  And it was pretty good, but I’m not sure the beer did anything to the chicken.  Certainly I couldn’t really taste it.  Now I was in the company of beer geeks at the time (aren’t I always?) and we got talking about how to make the chicken taste more like the beer.

P1020651

Godspeed, you mad bastard.

We generally agreed that a good strong-flavoured beer would be best option, but what to use?  I wasn’t going to waste a good Imperial Stout or Barleywine on cooking.  I toyed with the idea of using more La Trappe but then someone suggested the obvious: Yeastie Boys Rex Attitude.  But of course!  So simple but so genius!

Now I have an interesting relationship with Rex.  I both love and hate it, sometimes within the space of the same glass and sometimes simultaneously.  Overall though, I’m fond of Rex.  Not because I like drinking it, but because it’s utterly-nutterly-butterly bonkers.  It’s unique and it’s insane and for that I’m glad it exists.1

So I resolved to making rex-beer-can-chicken.  Now there’s an obvious problem with this plan, which is that Rex doesn’t come in cans.  I got around this simply by purchasing another canned drink, emptying it and filling it with Rex.  For aesthetic reasons, I wanted to use a can of something really shitty, like Lion Red, but I was at the supermarket, and I could only really get cans of fizzies, so I went with lemonade.

P1020648

There’s no way this can go wrong.

Methodology:

  • Drain the can of lemonade/other beer/whatever.  Drink this with ice, Gin and a squeeze of lemon (optional).  
  • Season your chicken with a little oil, salt and fresh-ground pepper.
  • Fill the empty can halfway with Rex Attitude.
  • And er, well…  Shove it up the chicken’s bum.  Yup.
  • Stand the chicken on the end of the can.  Now I had trouble keeping the chicken upright, so I used a couple of bamboo skewers to keep it standing:
I'm probably not.

Do you ever find yourself wondering if you’re completely ‘normal’?

  • Now roast it in the oven/bbq for however long (according to weight) at whatever temperature (according to oven/bbq or whatever).  

I was going to drink the rest of the Rex, only needing half the bottle to fill the can.  But then a thought occurred to me: gravy.  I got busy preparing some spuds.  Very quickly, I knew something was different from a normal roast chicken.  A smoky, slightly burning smell started permeating the kitchen.  I think it was just some spilled Rex on the roasting pan boiling away, because it disappeared fairly quickly (or I got used to it). It was sort of pleasant, but also vaguely reminded me of stale second-hand smoke.

Anywho, an hour and a bit later and after putting on the vegetables, the chicken was ready.  I pulled it out and set it aside to rest.  Frankly, it looked a little scary.

RAWR!

I dub thee “Chickenosaurus Rex”!

I then got busy with the gravy.  Now I’ve heard it said by Christians that if God gives you a gift, it’s your duty to use it in the service of the Lord.  If this is true, I should probably give up beer-tending and become an Evangelical Gravy-Preacher, because my gravy is god-damn magical.  I’m known amongst my friends as the Gravy Wizard and I’m frequently contracted to make gravy at parties.

Now lets get one thing straight.  Repeat after me: “Gravy does NOT come from a packet”.  Got that?  Cool.  Here’s how I made gravy:

  • Take your pan with all the lovely drippings from the roast.  Pour them off if there’s a lot sloshing around in the pan.  Otherwise, put it on the stove top and turn it to low.  
  • Sprinkle flour into the pan a little at a time and whisk it about until you’ve soaked up all the liquid.  It should make a thick paste when all the oil has been soaked up.
  • Once the flower is looking all nice and browned, add more liquid a little at a time, while whisking to thin it out.  I used Rex.  It turned out I didn’t need to save the rest of the bottle because there was still some left in the bottom of the can from the chicken’s bum.
  • After a lot of whisking, the gravy should look nice and glossy.  If you’ve whisked it enough, there shouldn’t be any lumps.  I seasoned it with a little soy sauce, lemon juice and fresh-ground pepper.

So how did the Chickenosaurus taste?  Well, only the meat nearest the can had picked up the Rex flavour.  That was probably a good thing though, because it wasn’t particularly a good combination.  It wasn’t bad per-se, but it did kind of taste a little like I’d used cigarette ash as a spice rub.  Oh well.  It was a neat experiment and we lives and learns, doesn’t we?  On the other hand…

The Rex gravy was delicious: rich, subtly peaty and a little tart from the lemon juice.  It was great on the chicken but I suspect it would be even better on beef.  So the experiment was worth it in the end.  Rex gravy: I’m going to remember that one!

I’m not entirely sold on the whole beer-can-chicken idea.  The meat was very moist, but I suspect a broth or even a brine would work just as well.  Next time I might just baste the chicken frequently in beer.  Maybe a Rauchbier like Smok’in Bish or Smoko.  Then again, they do have guinea fowl at More Wilson’s.  And quails.  And I was looking at those extra small energy-drink cans at the supermarket…


  1. I’m also very fond of Rex Attitude for another reason.  If you give it to someone who’s never had it before, they’ll pull a funny face.  But also, be they beer geek or complete novice, there’s roughly a 50-50 chance they’ll love it/hate it, which is pretty remarkable.  Although I have seen more than one beer geek type pretend to love it so as not to lose face in geek circles, then abandon or dump it when no one is looking…